Saturday, September 11, 2010

Jelly... well, Almost

Its 4:30am and I'm blogging.  Signs of an addict?  Maybe.

Yesterday was a fun day.  After being crazy busy all week, Friday afternoon was a nice time to be able to just cross a few things off the to-do list.  We were beginning to have raisins forming on our muscadine vines so the cute little farm girl and I decided to pick them clean and make some grape jelly.  Last week we processed about 3 gallons of grapes into syrup.  We had almost 3 gallons left on the vine for this week.  And some beauty berries were looking luscious and ripe.  So we had an all out jelly fest.  Unfortunately, none of the jelly set, but I now know why and can add the pointers as I go. 

The pots on the left are grapes.  The big pot on the right is the canner.  The jug I'm holding is filled with beauty berries.  I washed the grapes, put them in the pots (they all wouldn't fit in 1), added some water and let them cook down while we picked the beauty berries.  Once the grapes were cooked, they mashed very easily with a potato masher.  From there the instructions all say to separate the juice from the pulp through cheese cloth.  I tried that... it doesn't work.  The cheese cloth gets awfully plugged up and it makes a horrible mess.  Instead, I poured it 3-4 cups at a time into a colander over a pot.  I stirred the juice in the colander to keep it from plugging then dumped the pulp into a bucket for the goats.  I got very few seeds in the juice and was able to strain those out very easily. 
The goats enjoyed their sweet treat.
With the grape juice separated, I followed the recipe in the sure-jell package for concord grapes except that I didn't add the water.  I figured I had already done so to get them to cook down enough to squish them.  The problem here is that the recipes I've read since all say to not do more that 6 cups of juice at a time.  I think I was doing 16-17 cups.  Then the next problem was that it took forever to get it to boil.  I had someone coming over for a "farm tour" and so neglected the proper cook time.  I didn't think it would matter.  It did.  In fact, if you cook it long enough you can actually make jelly without pectin.  I had been wondering just how they made jellies back before the time of Sure-Jell... well, that's how.  This seems like a great recipe and the one I will be using next year.  Also in this picture are the beauty berries cooking down.  This recipe is one we had in the Florida's Wild Edibles handbook.  You cook the berries down (which removes all the color from them and puts it in the juice!), 3 cups of the resulting infusion, 5 cups sugar, 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1 pack of pectin.  Again, I was tripling this recipe.  I ended up 3 cups short on the sugar and figured it would be close enough.  Wrong again.  Live and learn.  The chickens really enjoyed the cooked beauty berries though!
So now that I have 18 pints of syrup, I'll probably be making pancakes this morning.  Especially since I already made muscadine syrup with the last batch of grapes.  I'm learning.  God bless my grandmother who took all these secrets to her grave.  I gleaned from her what I could as I was growing up, but frankly she wasn't much for teaching anyway.  I've inherited all her canning equipment, antique meat grinder, even her treadle sewing machine, but learning to use these handy gizmos is all up to me and the internet.  And I usually don't consult the internet until a problem arises.  The good news is, if I really want to, I can open up all these jars and try it again.  That's online too.  We'll see.  Husbandman is going to be gone all day with our newly constructed trailer helping some dear friends move.  I've got a mess of weeds to pull and a turkey pen to make pasture-ready.  I may have time this evening to play with it all... just 3 pints at a time. 


  1. Two quick questions. Did you usr old jelly jars? The ones with the light blue tops. And, you guys biult a trailer? I can't wait to see it! Motorcycle will be up and running this week so we will see you soon!

  2. I did use old jelly jars. Its considered a no-no but widely practiced every where else in the world. That's what I did in China as canning supplies were scarce. It worked well and I haven't died yet. I'll just use those first. :-> Looking forward to seeing you kaitimae! You're putting us to shame, coming down twice before we've ever been up to your place once!

  3. I wanted to use the no sure jell recipe this year but it does take longer to cook and sometimes it just doesn't jell well.(all jelly sure takes a lot of sugar, doesn't it?).
    How do you think the beauty berry jelly taste?
    I added 1 cup of pomegranate/blueberry juice I had to the second batch. It has a little more tangy taste.

    Have a great day.

  4. Pam, we really like the beauty berry "jelly" on pancakes. The muscadine jelly far outshines it on everything else though. The pomegranate juice sounds like a good addition. We have a pomegranate tree that hasn't fruited yet... maybe that will be something to consider blending together. I kinda planned on not using pectin in the future, but, honestly, its natural stuff and prevents the need to use THAT much sugar. Who knows... if I can use half the sugar and just add pectin, I may just continue to do that. But now the only fruit to can is watermelon rinds so I think I'll wait till next year to decide. :->

  5. I found a Ball pectin that is low-sugar/no-sugar. I never KNEW about beauty berry jelly and i have two huge loaded bushes in my front yard in i was so excited to find i could make jelly out of it. Anyway, the packet said I could use honey, so I used Florida wild flower honey and made just 2 jars and it was yummy! I think the wild flower honey gave it a nice flavor.